Tag Archives: Javelina

January 8, 2014

Chipping Sparrows, lots of Chipping Sparrows, at The Stockpond, as bright of eye and wing and life as a flock of tropical finches. Gambel’s Quail drift in and out nervously for water, Abert’s Towhees though own it all, arrive, chase each other off, come back, squabble and squeal their notes, bomb back and forth at each other low-profiled and fast like brown-feathered torpedoes.

Javelinas, now with babies, mow and mow the winter pasture, but after all, they must be allowed their pound of greens. I and the cattle are growing impatient, though, for the time when the crop has outgrown this constant porcine pruning and the pastures can also be a bovine buffet.

Still I haven’t found a way to catch a Polka Dot Beetle to have a close look–they know well how to evade a predator, fly off faster if you just stare at them, seem to fold wings and drop to the ground if you make a move to scoop one in the air, then they scramble off quickly in the thatch or scurry along the underside of a leaf and vanish.

Pillbugs are active, I turn up numbers of them in the course of digging out mesquites large and small in front of, behind, and beyond the fence of The Stockpond in anticipation of the return of Purple Martins in a few months. Those charismatic birds need a wide, clear approach and runway as they come to drink, as do the various swallows of summer, swifts, and bats, and if the mesquites are left in place it will be not much time before their crowns have grown across into a wall that would be a menace to the flying creatures’ navigation and swing.

A Gray Flycatcher has been at the water’s edge all day, and is joined after sunset by one Mexican Mallard who comes in for the night.

December 3, 2013

Pyrrhuloxias male and female, and Chipping Sparrows, drink among dragonflies at The Stockpond.  Seedlings wild and encouraged are developing rapidly in the Vernal Winter: oats and barley have shot out two or three true leaves, the rye shows one or two, and out of the fresh mounds of gopher-dug soil spring grass seedlings with stems and blades fully formed.  Millions of perfect Valentine hearts of Cheeseweed Mallow cotyledons are making green patches on the wide, open ground.  Javelina are already grazing heavily on the fruit of our works long before cows will get the chance!

November 1, 2013

Morning.  Crystalline.  Cloudless.  Blue.  The mercury has dropped through the floor of the 30s, to my fascinated horror it is trying to arrow on down right through all the 20s without a stop, and into the teens but stays just shy of that in the early sunrise hour.  The pastures are scattered with ice and I’m glad that their big irrigation hoses were emptied last night.  The wide swaths of Barnyard Grass I cross are still green but frost edges each blade–it is all so sun-dazzling that were it to take any more time getting to the other side of the pasture I’d come out from it snow blind.

The scenes change before my eyes, the visions of the pastures quiver as I watch ice begin to drip and hoarfrost vanish and the edges of all things dissolve.  Quickly strengthening Sun like an orchestra leader raises his baton, and the mercury responds: the First of November, the first day of the Sonoran Second Spring, whose arrival is told by the European Foxtail Grass and the annual rye volunteered by last year’s plantings, now re-sprouting suddenly and massively over half of #2 Pasture.  The grass returning to the wide pradera is already an inch tall … when did that happen?!  I didn’t notice it yesterday!

By noon a drowsy warmth is coming on, but rounds of chores are such that I don’t get to eat lunch for a good while; a Great Horned Owl calls in the hot 2 o’clock hour when I get to settle back into a steep bank of The Stockpond and open the lunch mochila.  It is almost 80 degrees; it is almost 60 degrees above the temperature at dawn.   All the water is a startling algal bloom color of antifreeze, and the heat has brought awake from their morning’s frozen stupor many insects to come to drink from it: Tarantula Hawks, dragonflies varied and beautiful, a Painted Lady butterfly.  What will it take to put them finally into dormancy, or death?

I doze off with head tilted back comfortably into a hollow in the level top of the dusty pond bank, winter Stetson lowered over my face to the nose.  Nothing matches the pleasure of such a nap mid-work in so peaceful a haven, nothing so good at restoring ambition!  Something wakes me, maybe my own snoring … and in the moment before I open my eyes I hear a huffing and growling even deeper than my snore, close by, and getting closer.  I lift the hat and stretch my head backwards for a nervous look, without turning over, and see a world of upside-down mesquite trees on blue sky, and the long face and little eyes of an upside-down champion-size Javelina coming at me all a-bristle, grunting, angry and meaning business, about ten feet away.  “WaaaaaahhhHHHHH!”, I belt out my own growl, flip sideways and let out another, but the single-minded critter’s brain seems to have shut down and it comes forward even more aggressively.  In another try at returning the animal’s belligerence in hopes of scaring it off ( <*<yawn>*> … how tedious to have lost my nap …) I stretch up standing as tall as I can, curve high my arms and open wide my hands while screeching like the mythical Onza and take a step towards the Javelina, but on comes the bedeviled thing that wants back this waterhole for its troupe.  I wonder if those animals drew lots to see who’d go do this–they sure picked the right one.  I back up a couple steps, do the bear impersonation again, the Javelina bristles up even more and quickens its step forward.  One more try at this bluff and I’ve backed into the edge of the pond, and the realization sets in with a sickening mental squall that there’s no choice but to run into the water–backwards–so I could keep steady eye on the situation, or at least try to.  Onward the unhappy thing comes, right to the edge of the water as I keep stumbling in reverse but now splashing and kicking up swirls of the blackest goo, blind to what is behind me, and I guess I’m going to have to skip out backwards into the middle of that mud and water I have never wanted to touch.  Just when Cousin Javelina starts to come on in after me, I hit a trip wire: barbed strands that stretch the tall pond-filling riser to the air pocket releasing sniffer a little ways down the water main that’s buried in the mud.  And … over … I … go, still screeching out, sideways and down and fall flat into water that must be a soup of intestinal parasites and who knows what else in the deep bottom of an age’s accumulation of black and syrupy cattle manure.  Oh the smell that welled into the air … the wild splashing to find the footing to get back up standing … the wave of black muck that covered me with an odor that makes me retch–NOW the Javelina decides this creature it’s decided to attack might better have been avoided, and after a quick panicked snort of “Why, just look at the time!”, it trots off fast and huffing, to the extended family on the other side of the grove of mesquites, and they’re gone.  The irrigation is running, and I realize I can turn the handle on that pond riser hydrant to get such a blast of water that I’m peeled of the mud covering boots, Wranglers, shirt, and what little skin that’s ever exposed anyway to the Sonoran Desert sun.  Though I’m clean in not much more than an instant with the convenient power washing, a certain miasmic smell lingers, as does an ear-pounding, worked-up tension that will take its time to fade off.  It’s not the first such event, and won’t be the last, I think to myself, and I also think to myself that the reason cowboys wore a side arm was to drop or scare off the Adventure of the Day–keep his skin, keep his life going long enough for the next horse to try to drag him across the rocks and cactus and that he must stop literally dead in its track if he is to live, or until the next skunk or bobcat wants to tear him up and get those clever rabies bugs into him, or stop a Mojave Rattler who has experienced a loss of composure and comes zinging after him.

More bugs, beetles, and spiders fill the air and creep in the grassland in the strong afternoon sun–around The Cienega, blue or green or deep copper dragonflies and one small one that’s pale bronze and very shiny, and blue damselflies … a gigantic katydid … a pale brown, very small jumping spider.  No matter the November date some of these are ones I haven’t seen heretofore, and that I suspect are just now starting their flickering candle quickly extinguished life on the planet.  Among the new ones in the bermudagrass are a few brilliantly colored, small beetles in shape like a blister beetle, green, with three pairs of black polka dots showing down the length of the “back” when the insects are at rest.  Afraid they are indeed blister beetles, I dare not harry them; I name them “Polka Dot Beetles”.

I am distracted by a Vermillion Flycatcher still hanging on in the valley, and almost step square onto the back of a Striped Skunk who–I am so thankful!–merely ambles off grumbling about its klutzy human neighbor.  I’ve lost count of the number of similar encounters I’ve had with skunks in the pastures on both sides of The River over the years, all of them without having come to an unhappy end.  Luck? or do skunks have a mostly undeserved bad rap, at least if they’re not rabid?

October 22, 2013

Dozens of those pipits land around me as I set up the lines to guide for Joel when he soon comes to give another try at cultivating for the winter pasture planting, and a dozen Javelina come to drink at The Cienega there. Russet the Harrier floats by me, with such grace that no one can have helped yelping out like I, “Oh! Oh, oh!” Then all the Meadowlarks fly in, join this wildlife samba rolling down the Pasture around me.

It’s an evening of delightful balminess, a Bahamian 80 degrees at sundown. A Red-tail out there looks like it’s stomping grapes, then flies off with a snake dangling long from its talons, flies low over the pasture and vanishes along with the light into the bosque.

Doves, wave upon wave of them, come flapping loudly and wing-whistling loudly … volleys of 30 or 40 birds at a time, in low over the pasture to the North, come vaulting over the mesquite tree tops. Hundreds–countless–they come, they come, they come, landing among others already rimming the entire pond, two or three at every cow pog full of water. So crowded do they become that some hover and teeter barely above the water out in the middle with bills thrust down to sip like hummers, almost falling in. The air is so full of the loudness of all this, and the whipping around of wings, and the silhouettes of ever more arriving doves, I for a moment can imagine why some people could become unsettled or even feel panic with such a level of wild activity, remember Boris Karloff’s presentation of “Pigeons from Hell” that revisted me in nightmares for most of Third Grade. You know you’re in trouble when they stop cooing.

May 29, 2013

Bats and Nighthawks are taking their final sips as their shift ends, the woods around is dark and the creatures themselves invisible, but the pond surface catches enough dawn to show their reflections and so I can only see them upside down. Nothing is as it seems in the crepuscule.

I go about the usual circles, opening the irrigation, back to the pump to turn it on, out to the pastures to see that all is operating well and efficiently using that priceless water, adjust sprinklers, unscrew nozzles to clear out grit and pebbles the pump has sucked up and that will clog an opening (and so I get the usual soaking which still feels cold with the dawn standing at 50 degrees), then swing on back to The Stockpond to see who has come now the sun is heading towards the cliff bottoms. Just the usual neighbors hangin’ out at the cafe: warblers, sparrows, tanagers. Ernest Tubb undoubtedly in a cowboy hat twangs out from the dashboard and from 1950, “I Love You Because”. I sip coffee, munch a tortilla, munch on the day’s cow chores, munch on all the fences that are also twanging out and popping off their posts. I think back to when a ranch visitor almost twenty years ago asked me one dawn in the cooktent if I thought it was going to rain, and I answered him, “Yessir, eventually.”

No Western Tanagers, they seem to have left en masse.

The dark shade of large and dense mesquites invites me to take lunch up on the rim of an old stocktank that still collects the runoff from the hills across the road if a storm cell dumps water in just the right canyon above. I can look down from that bank top at the wheel lines and can see their watering stop when the pump shuts itself off before the 1 pm peak hour rates begin. The scenes below on the fields and above on the hills and mountains and the cool shade invite a siesta though I must beware the large ants foraging around me. At least I must not roll over on any. An orange from some place far from this foodshed is my desert, the peels are left for a favorite steer who has learned to eat them. A thought comes: we humans are no less (and no less legitimate) recyclers of biomass than are those mahogany-colored ants (or gophers for that matter), the difference being only of scale. We do it on a continental, even planetary, scale. I’ve been at the bottom of those orange skins becoming the humus of a spot very far from where they were brought into being by the natural processes and cycles in their homeland, or bioregion if you will, and I’ve been responsible for their being added to the biomass (and decomposing litter) in this one. Humus is neither created nor destroyed, but transferred from one place to another? Multiply that by the rest of what I eat in a day, and that again by 7 billion of us, and we will know that indeed we are changing more than just the Earth’s climate. Will the result be any less “natural” an outcome than what should have happened here without us?

The mesquites are gravid with pods, though many trees are still in bloom and I take in delicious, deep drafts of the sweetness, allergies be damned. The calves are eating the flower spikes as if they were popsicles, their mammas reaching higher for the even headier and protein-rich catkins of Catclaw Acacia, with blossoms that fill the air with an indescribably rich fragrance one might only come on in perfume shops hidden down tangled alleys of old Mombasa.

Seven almost-grown Mule Deer join me on the pasture as I head out across to turn down the risers to conserve untold thousands of gallons of water that would keep flowing out if I didn’t. It is always a big hassle to do this, but I don’t dare waver from the chore. The deer are unsure of me yet also quite unafraid and they let me approach closely as I tend to my own business at hand. They come to graze on the yellow sweet-clover which in its tall drifts is loudly abuzz with honeybees, and there is the maturing barley, oats, wheat and rye, the globemallow, bermudagrass and saltweed for them and the javelina, Coues’ Deer, jackrabbits and cottontails–and the cattle.

These Mule Deer have the same power to enchant as the Catclaw blooming at the pastures’ edges, are so startling in their near-tameness as to seem visitors from one of the Yaqui ania “dream worlds” (if dream they be) where all is flowery and the streams do run. The Yaquis would understand how all in the crepuscule here is not as it appears, living as they do at the other book-end of this Sonoran Desert where their own rio comes to the sea, or at least used to. As I learned from spending a winter in the extreme south of Sonora, everyday life at the opposite shore of this desert is in many ways like ours, at least here in this wild valley of unpaved roads and people who know that as with the word “cowboy”, “neighbor” is both noun and verb.

The physical surroundings of that far land in Sonora take little adjusting to if once you have become at-home on the San Pedro, and I look up from the Mule Deer to hills and peaks that remind me of that beloved part of Mexico. The colors at this season, above the lush riverbottom flats I and the deer stand on, are the same grays and pale browns of the monte mojino–the “tropical deciduous forest”–of Alamos, only here the trees and shrubs are shorter, with no closed canopy because we are much colder though that is hard to remember just now with the afternoon temperatures always in the 90s and very soon in the 100s. Our grays and browns are even more pronounced than usual, because the last rains of any note fell eight months ago on this range. We end up with no closed canopy here on our hills not only because of the cold, but because of the dryness: it looks like every last Foothills Paloverde up there has gone from green to brown and died outright from the drought. The O’odham believe that saguaros we see had once been individual people, and so I can imagine the few of these cactus trees that we look up at on those heat-shattered hills among the dead paloverdes are longing for the arrival of the temporales. The saguaros struggled to bloom this year, and none of them flowered right around here. Will it rain this summer? Will it ever rain again? Yessir, eventually.

May 11, 2013

The Spotted Sandpiper is gone. A tadpole looking up through the water where the sandpiper had stood might this morning be fooled into thinking it was seeing an innocent white cloud rather than its doom, a cloud that can fling out a mortal bolt at lightning speed to grab the tadpole for breakfast. It is a Snowy Egret come to spend a single day with us. Wearing golden slippers it walks across the muddy bottom with consummate grace, a mist of aigrettes suspended over its back and all this beauty doubled perfectly by its reflection. This picture on a 1950s Florida postcard is jumpy, and flew off with a sharp bark, landed for only a moment then took off in panicked flight as if it had seen a plume hunter. When I came back a long time later to turn off the irrigation, though, it was much less bothered by me and I could watch it at leisure while it was cleaning up the pond of every vertebrate and invertebrate that could be snagged.

A first migrating Western Tanager arrived for a drink, to remind me that it is one of the most beautiful of North American birds and one on a par with any of its spectacular wholly tropical relatives. A Lesser Goldfinch alights on top the pond-filling riser, and sips from the dribble there.

Out on the pastures other Lesser Goldfinch graze on Wright Saltbush, (“Saltweed”) which plant happens also to be my favorite spring green and a pleasure peculiar to these Borderlands, delicious with a little olive oil drizzled through … gather it early while it’s tender and not very tall, with a tug of the fingers at the tips of the sprawling plants the best leaves and shoots will break naturally and these be thrown in a pot with a little water, brought just to the boil then heat turned off and left covered a while but eaten while still hot. The cows go crazy for it, and, happily, they find it in abundance …


Numbers of javelina are out there too, but what they’re grazing is the bolting wheat and barley and like the grosbeaks with whom they’re in competition, the animals are about mad for those grass heads coming into seed. The plants are so tall that all that can be seen of the javelina are ears and noses, as they reach up as far as their bodies allow them to get at the crop.

April 3, 2013

While I was setting up the day’s first irrigation some odd noises drew my attention to the deepest grasses over at the north edge, to where a young javelina’s thoughts were turning to, um, love, in the Rio San Pedro spring. There were a bunch of the critters come to sip from a riser’s overflow pool, one of them an obviously attractive female, not very large, but every time he professed his love she spun 180 degrees, growled, and snapped onto his lip. He of course chuckled and crooned, made another pass, and then got whacked in the face by a handbag as she hissed at him, “Masher!” I called them Tyrone and Gladys, after the “old” couple on Laugh In. This went on for a while, even after I called out, “Madre de Dios! Go get a room!” and eventually they bowled off into the tall dried grass and tumbleweed, he still grumbling lowly, she still with an offended, “Well I never!” Their children will be lovely.

Delicately-hued, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher along The Lane, in those still small mesquite leaves.

Four weeks after I first heard the Sonoran lullaby beloved of every desert rat–the cooing of the White-winged Dove, at El Potrero eight miles to the north–a single one now is calling from the bosque at Mason’s. They winter (sparingly) as close as Pomerene, 25 miles or so to the south, but the birds are behaving like so many others this oddly-patterned year: going north and passing Mason’s, then turning south and coming to the pastures, or, maybe the ones now appearing are newly arrived directly from points far beyond Pomerene.